Rebecca Burnett and I had a conversation about the nature of commenting on student blog posts. As instructors, should we have the option of making a private comment – viewable only to the student author, or should all comments be viewable to all students? There is an argument to be made for complete transparency in a course blog. I believe there are situations, however, where dialogue between an instructor and a student might benefit from a degree of privacy. The example that comes immediately to mind relates to marking a post. In the past, I have returned what I believe to be confidential communication regarding assignment feedback and grading to students through an external medium (email, rubrics uploaded to T-Square’s dropbox, emma, etc.). And yet I have thought it would be preferable for students to be able to read my feedback inline with their posts. I just wasn’t sure how to accomplish such a thing without making this confidential feedback publicly available.
After my discussion with Rebecca, I went digging around in WordPress’s Plugin Directory and found a viable candidate. It’s called “Whisper Comment Reloaded”, and offers a simple solution to the public/private comment conundrum. Add the Plugin to your blog and alter the settings as you see fit (I opted for “Whisper to an author of a blog post”, and that was about all I needed to do). Now, when I click the “Leave a Reply” link at the bottom of a post, an extra tick-box appears below the comment field. By ticking that box, the plugin invokes a “Whisper” – only the blog author and the administrator can see the comment. All other Authors – and I classify all my students as Authors – see only this message in the list of comments: (…whisper…).
Considering that there are approximately 18,000 WordPress Plugins listed in the WordPress Plugin directory, I expect there are other, similar and perhaps better solutions. I’d be eager to hear if anyone else has had an experience – good or bad – with a plugin like this.